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No Second Chances: What to Do After a Botched Execution

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Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. The state shouldn't get a second chance.
The pathos and problems of America's death penalty were vividly on display yesterday when Ohio tried and failed to execute Alva Campbell. Immediately after its failure Gov. John Kasich set June 5, 2019, as a new execution date.
This plan for a second execution reveals a glaring inadequacy in the legal standards governing botched executions in the United States.
Campbell was tried and sentenced to die for murdering 18-year-old Charles Dials during a carjacking in 1997. After Campbell exhausted his legal appeals, he was denied clemency by the state parole board and the governor.
By the time the state got around to executing Campbell, he was far from the dangerous criminal of 20 years ago. As is the case with many of America's death-row inmates, the passage of time had inflicted its own punishments.
The inmate Ohio strapped onto the gurney was a 69-year-old man afflicted with serious ailm…

Exonerated Former Death Row Man Calls Feds to Probe Wrongful Convictions in New Orleans

John Thompson
John Thompson
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A man exonerated after 14 years on Louisiana’s death row for a murder he didn’t commit is leading a call for the U.S. Justice Department to investigate practices at the New Orleans district attorney’s office and look for other wrongful convictions and civil rights violations.

John Thompson’s complaint calls for special attention to cases prosecuted by Jim Williams, an assistant prosecutor in the 1980s under then-District Attorney Harry Connick.

Thompson and other advocates for criminal justice reform say state and local officials have failed to investigate and remedy abuses they attribute to Williams.

Thompson spoke Tuesday at a news conference In New Orleans.

“I was a victim,” Thompson said of the prosecutor who helped put him on death row. “He tried to kill me.”

His petition to federal officials cites five other death penalty cases prosecuted by Williams: two in which sentences were commuted to life; two in which the convicts were exonerated and one in which a new trial has been ordered.

Williams, now a private attorney in the suburb of Gretna, denied withholding evidence favorable to Thompson in a brief emailed statement.

“To make the record clear for the very last time, I never withheld any favorable evidence in either of John Thompson’s criminal trials that I prosecuted,” Williams’ statement said.

Connick, who retired in 2003, has long defended his 30-year tenure as district attorney against allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in Thompson’s and other cases. He declined to comment Tuesday on Thompson’s letter.

Current District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, whose office is criticized in the letter for “failure to identify and review the integrity of the conviction for each and every individual prosecuted by Williams,” did not respond to an emailed request for comment to his public information office.

“Wrongful convictions are not limited to New Orleans and cases where prosecutors disregarded the law are not limited to New Orleans,” said Emily Maw, an attorney and director of the Innocence Project New Orleans. However, she said the problem is serious in New Orleans. She said her office’s work over the last 15 years has resulted in 28 people being freed or exonerated in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Tuesday’s complaint also notes the case of Curtis Lee Kyles, who won a new trial in a 1984 death case after prosecutors withheld information.

Thompson’s case drew national attention in 2011 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 to overturn a $14 million judgment he’d won against Connick’s office, Williams and others for his wrongful conviction.

According to the court record, Thompson was first convicted in 1985 in an unrelated attempted armed robbery. That conviction proved important at his murder trial. Fearing the conviction would be used to challenge his credibility, Thompson chose not to testify in his own defense. Then, prosecutors noted the armed robbery attempt as they argued for the death penalty in the murder case.

Later, it was found that prosecutors under Connick had not disclosed the existence of a swatch of victim clothing stained with the would-be robber’s blood, or a test showing the blood to be type B.

Thompson, who has type O blood, eventually was exonerated in the robbery and the murder.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a majority opinion rejecting the idea that the district attorney’s office should be punished for failing to provide specific training to prosecutors on evidence that must be turned over to the defense. A strong dissent from Ruth Bader Ginsburg held that Thompson was entitled to the award “for the gross, deliberately indifferent, and long-continuing violation of his fair trial right.”

Source: Afro, Kevin McGill (AP), August 3, 2016

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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